Prophets have played a significant role throughout church history by speaking truth to those in power. Some became so influential that not even those they spoke against would touch them. These are passionate individuals who say what needs to be said when it needs to be said when others might shy away or remain silent. Sometimes their passion gets the better of them and they overreact, get in the way of reconciliation or even cause hurt.
Is this any different than any of the other heroes of faith? Many of the people we look to as leaders and examples of the faith were warlords, slave owners, adulterers, murderers, bigots and deceivers. Even pastors, teachers, and other roles within the church have been filled by people with various degrees of corruption, holiness and self-awareness. Of course, the ideal is that whenever someone claims to be speaking for God or from God that their humanity (bias, prejudice and perspective) is tucked neatly away so not to corrupt, compromise or invalidate the message. Unfortunately, personal opinions, expectations and insecurities shape the presentation of that message whether pastor or prophet, apostle or teacher.
Recently, while reading one of the most well-known stories about Elijah, I couldn’t help but question whether everything we read of his activities was actually instructed by God. The instruction is to tell the king that the rain will return; however, before that is even communicated, insults are exchanged, taunts proclaimed and hundreds of people are killed. Were these deaths murder due to the impassioned crowd, or were they capital punishment for acts of treason? This has been debated for centuries and will likely be debated for centuries to come. Either way, the narrator does not affirm that these additional acts were commanded by God. So Elijah finds himself running for his life and humbly admitting to God his zealousness that led to this state.
Throughout history priests and prophets have committed questionable and horrible acts in the name of God. Yet, if there were no prophet who would speak out against the injustice? We desperately need people who will rise up and speak truth to power the best way they know how. We can’t afford to wait for the perfect prophet. May the prophets rise up and speak out against injustice with both confidence and humility. Likewise, may their boldness not introduce or contribute to another injustice.